People age 60 and older who have had chicken pox as children -- caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which can hide in the nerves -- can get shingles, a blistering rash on one side of the body.
Shingles affects as many as 30 percent of mostly elderly Americans and has no specific treatment.
Medicinal chemist Chung (David) Chu of the University of Georgia, one of the inventors of L-BHDA says, it is a novel and effective anti-shingles agent.
"We need new options for medications with increased potency and specificity that can treat VZV, including strains that may be resistant to existing drugs," Chu says in a statement.
Chu and co-inventor Yung-Chi (Tommy) Cheng of Yale University say although there are generic anti-viral drugs to reduce the duration and pain of shingles, and a variety of pain medications and topical creams to relieve long-term pain, they are only moderately effective.
"L-BHDA has the potential to be more effective than existing agents," Chu says.
The compound has been tested in the laboratory and in mice models, the researchers say.
A vaccine to prevent shingles can cut the likelihood of a shingles attack in half, but only a small percentage of older people receive the shot, the researchers say.